🎨 The Art of Onicas Gaddis

Here, deep in the caverns of the Beaumonde think tank with our smocks and with our innovation machines I come to you with news. Discovery of beautiful arts and artists with a story is ever important to us and, perhaps not surprisingly, we stumbled upon the currently Pittsboro-based painter, Onicas Gaddis, through a Facebook group. Social media has proven to be an indispensable tool for increasing connectivity in the arts for patrons, artists, and enthusiasts alike. When we saw Onicas Gaddis, (who would soon become a good friend), list a painting on the Raleigh Artists Facebook group for $1 million, he caught our attention. Any artist who will value their work at one million dollars is one we think is worth talking to as they are either strikingly aware of their brilliance or sorely in illusion lost. One look at the works of Onicas reveals which category he exists within. 

Soon after contacting Onicas via the Raleigh Artists Facebook group, we met with him and were lucky enough to see some of his art in person. Having spent much of his childhood in foster care or group homes where conditions were unspeakably painful, Onicas turned to painting and not just for sake of aesthetic pleasure – art for him arose out of a necessity to create, to share, to heal, and most of all to live and to live with purpose.

“I am a firm believer in painting from the heart and telling my truth, and that’s what makes a painter totally original.”
Onicas Gaddis

1)    What first drew you to becoming a painter? Was there a particular person, life experience, or set of ideas that inspired you?

I was first introduced to painting by the Alabama Art Colony. Sarah Carlisle Towery, the colony's namesake, was 90 years old when I first met the group. By this time, Miss Sarah had traveled the world and painted with world-renowned painters such as Hans Hofmann and Joseph Albers. Before I met this group of painters, I had been drawing portraits in pencil and charcoal. Sarah Towery challenged me to not think of the finished piece but focus on enjoying the process of painting. She would often tell me to loosen up and allow the painting to tell me what it wants to be. Miss Sarah was the first person that told me I was an artist. 

2)    What do you portray in your paintings? Is there one theme or set of ideas you seek to convey in paint?

When someone looks at one of my paintings, I want them to see all the pain that I've been through as well as the beauty that has come from it. There is a continuous theme in my work. It's the story of my life on canvas. I try to be honest with how I'm feeling at the moment that I'm creating a painting.

3)    Do you remember the first painting you ever completed?

I do remember the first painting that I made. It was a still life of a bowl of fruit done in oil paint, which I rarely paint with anymore. My aunt in Alabama, (Thelma Hill), still has this painting in her kitchen. I would make several paintings in oil after this one with very tight compositions. Soon after, Miss Sarah suggested that I switch to acrylics in order to loosen up a bit.

4)    Are there any particular artists or people in your life that inform and influence your paintings and their subject matter(s)?

I have several artists that I admire, but the subject matter in my work is not influenced by other painters. I am a firm believer in painting from the heart and telling my truth, and that's what makes a painter totally original. 

5)    How has your experience as a foster care child shaped your art, both the final product and the process of creation – your outlook?

Growing up in the foster care system has shaped my art in many ways. I always believed that if I could grow up to become a world-famous artist then I could be an inspiration to others in similar situations. I also wanted to prove certain people wrong that told me that my "dream" of becoming an artist was unattainable. Growing up in foster care can also cause a person to feel alone. The fact that I had my art to keep me company, I rarely felt alone. Every time I complete a painting I feel a sense of accomplishment. This has been very valuable in boosting my confidence over the years. 

6)    If there was one thing you could tell a foster care child in a difficult situation, or anyone struggling for that matter, what would that be?

I would tell a foster kid or anyone in a difficult situation that there is always hope. I also put a lot of faith in God and I've never been let down. 

I would also tell them to find something that they like to do and spend most of their time doing it. Making art allows me to escape the sometimes harsh memories and feelings that originated from the years I spent in foster care.

7)    Have you worked in any other medium besides paint?

Besides working in charcoal and pencil, I've yet to venture into other mediums other than paint. I have been pondering the idea of creating wood sculptures and using modeling clay.

8)    What are you working on now and are there any projects or shows you have upcoming?

 Onicas with Shep & Caroline

Onicas with Shep & Caroline

I'm currently in a show at VAE in Raleigh (Black on Black V2) thanks to Beaumonde, Mike Williams, and Linda Dallas. I've recently found an affordable space in Pittsboro, NC for my studio. It's a small room with many other rooms available. My plans are to create a collaborative working space for artists similar to Art Space in Raleigh. My goal for 2017 is to be included in Art Basel in Miami, Florida in December. I work full time at The Frame & Print Shop in Chapel Hill, NC. I'm working on framing each of my paintings for a more impactful presentation. 

9)    What are your aspirations?

I'm aspiring to be a better father for my children, Royal & Roman.  I also aspire to become one of the most well-known and well-respected artists in history.  

10)    Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think I would like to mention my poetry/spoken word material which can be found at www.reverbnation.com/onicasgaddis These songs and poems are very old material. I guess I could also add to the "aspirations" question that I really would like to get in a professional recording studio to make new songs. Also, I have a Fine Art America page where you can order prints of my paintings online.


If you’re interested in learning more about Onicas or seeing more of his art check out his website and go peep his paintings in the Black on Black V2 Exhibit in downtown Raleigh. Leave a comment below if you wish to let us know what you think of Onicas’ art or if you, too, have a story to share about the transformative powers of art.

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-Andrew